Monday, August 2, 2010

Our Camino Prayer a.k.a. Anima Christi

One morning when we set out walking with Billy and Christine, Cullen began the day as we always did, with "our" pilgrim prayer. Billy told us he learned that prayer as a child, so it really isn't a pilgrim prayer per se, but it is the prayer we started each day of our pilgrimage. It is the "Anima Christi". Here it is with a bit of variation:

Soul of Christ, sanctify me
Body of Christ, save me
Blood of Christ, inebriate me
Water from the side of Christ, wash me
Passion of Christ, strengthen me
Passion of Christ, comfort me
O my Jesus, Within thy wounds hide me
From the evil malignant one defend me
At the hour of death call me
And grant that I join your angels and saints
and proclaim your glory.
Now and Forever. Amen.

Tuesday, July 6, 2010

Our Camino in Video

We've put all our pictures of our Camino to video in three parts - enjoy!


Part 1 - NYC, Bordeaux, St Jean Pied de Port to Belorado
video

Part 2 - Belorado to Villar de Mazarife
video

Part 3 - Villar de Mazarife to Santiago de Compostela and onto Finisterre
video

Sunday, July 4, 2010

The Best, The Most Surprising and Practical Advice

Practical Advice:

I definitely recommend using net sacks for keeping your clothing sorted. We used plastic and the "eau de pilgrim" gets overpowering after a couple of weeks. The net sacks allow for ventilation and they are less noisy than plastic.

Learn as much Spanish as you can. Though most (not all) pilgrims from non-English speaking countries do speak English, and you can make yourself understood to most business proprietors, our experience was so enriched by Cullen's ability to converse with the locals and the Spanish pilgrims in their language.

My boots were 1 1/2 sizes bigger than my normal shoe. I would definitely go with 2 sizes bigger to accommodate the one foot that is bigger than the other (this is probably true for most people). I believe this is the reason I had trouble with the toes on my right foot. It is definitely the bigger of my two feet.

Pilgrim etiquette - Like anyplace else, there are people who don't behave well. Don't worry about it.

What We Liked Best:

- The simple life.

- Running into familiar pilgrims.

- Making new friends, especially Dieter, Becky, Christine and Billy, Ants and Rebecca, Kaija, Patricia and the three amigos, Tomas, Enrique and Luis!

- The big sky of the Meseta.

- The hospitaleros in CastroJeriz, who put on a Quemada ceremony, sang "Amazing Grace" in Spanish while preparing the Quemada and sang Auld Lang Syne in Spanish as we walked off in the morning down the deserted street.

- The Pilgrim's mass at the convent in Astorga and the priest asking us to carry the prayers of the sister's to Santiago.

- Starting each day with our Pilgrim Prayer.

- Introducing other Pilgrims, especially our Kiwi Kids, to the Sol y Sombra.

- The great, swinging incense burner at mass in the Cathedral de Santiago, knowing so many others, over so many years experienced the same thing.

- The appreciation the old Spaniards show the pilgrims and their calls of "Buen Camino".

- Last, but certainly not least, the Spanish Bars where you know you're going to have a great cup of coffee.


Most Surprising (in a not so good way):

- The number of meals (Pilgrim meals and meals of the day) which included french fries as a side dish.

- The number of Spaniards, old and young who smoke cigarettes and the enormous amount of cigarette smoke in bars and restaurants.

- The villages that seemed deserted, as if no one was living there.

- The significant number of dogs kept on short chains.

- The amount of manure on The Way..cow, dog, bird.

Sunday, June 27, 2010

Post Camino

Well, it has been a little more than 2 months since we finished our Camino. As soon as we finished we began our touring of Spain. We've been home for 2 weeks and thought it would be a good idea to share some "superlatives" with those of you followed our journey. First though, we'd like to thank each and everyone of you for the comments, thoughts and prayers you sent our way! It really meant a lot to us.

Towards the end of our Camino I thought, "how can people want to do this again?" Sure, it's beautiful, you meet wonderful people, drink good wine, etc. But you can never recreate the experience. So I just figured that somehow the good things must be pushed forward in your mind while the difficulties (sore feet, wearing the same clothes day after day..) are pushed into the back. But here we are, after 2 months post Camino, starting to have thoughts like all the rest of the pilgrims on the Forum (www.caminodesantiagodesantiago.me/board) and the pilgrims I met on the Camino who were doing it for the second, third or fourth time. It really is the simplicity of "The Way" that is most appealing. Getting away from the fast paced life, the traffic, the news, the yard work, etc. Having time to just enjoy nature and being part of something bigger than ourselves, something intangible.

So how does one bring the simple life of the Camino back to your life at home? Right now I have the feeling that, that is more difficult than walking the Camino itself. Perhaps with each Camino you bring home a bit more of the simple life.

Anyway, we wrote some notes while on the bus to Finisterre, making lists of what we liked best and least, our most cherished experiences, our "nightmare" experiences and what we least expected. When I look back on my notes I also notice that what starts out as a "nightmare" ends up being the "most cherished". More to follow.....

Sunday, May 16, 2010

Day 38 Santiago to Finisterre (April 25)

We took the bus for 12 euro each and it took about 3 hours.  It was a nice drive and we welcomed the ocean views.  The bus made quite a few stops on the way, but we weren't in a hurry.    When we arrived we were surprised there wasn't a big bus station, this is the end of the earth after all.  There was an organized run going on so the bus dropped us off on a corner in town.    There were a lot of folks waiting to board the bus.  We thought we'd find the tourist office to get info on accommodations but there wasn't an official tourist office instead we were directed to the albergue which acts as the tourist office.  They were very helpful in recommending the Casa Velay, a nice pension as well as a restaurant.  They also had bus schedules to our next stop, La Coruna.  The double room with bath was 36 euros.  Once we were settled we decided to walk up to the lighthouse.  We ran into Urtzii in town before starting.  The walk was about 6 km round-trip - all on the road.  When we got to the lighthouse the view was wonderful.  I was surprised at how few people were there.  Not many tourists at all.  There were a couple of fires burning so Cullen added our items for the obligatory burning ritual; a sock of mine and his clothesline and clothespins.  When we got back into town we decided to look for the restaurant recommended to us by Jose Andreas, the famous Spanish chef. When we were at his book signing back in December he had recommended that we go.  Turns out the chef at the restaurant is married to the sister of the lady who runs the pension where we are staying.  It was about 1 km, right on the beach.  The name of it is Tira do Cordel.  We didn't have reservations so they seated near the grill where they do most of the cooking.  Of course we loved that!  The food was great-razor clams, a scallop which Cullen thought was the best thing he had ever eaten, and  sea bream cooked perfectly.  The cooking grills were huge and they were built so the chefs could lower or raise them over the hot coals.  The fish was brought in fresh from the ocean.  We also had a great Albarino wine.  When we finished we walked back to town and saw a few pilgrims we had met on The Way (Ramon, Marc, Urtzi, a young German woman).  We chatted with them for a while and had a nice evening on the waterfront.  Thus ended our Camino adventure.  We now begin our tourist adventure traveling around Spain and ending up in Rome.       

As an update we had a chance to check out our photos when we visited our friend Iker in San Sebastian and much to our horror it appears that when Cullen dropped the camera on day 21 most of the subsequent pictures are out of focus. Once we get home we'll post. 

Saturday, May 15, 2010

Wines from Spain

I had wanted to taste many good wines while we were in Spain. Unfortunately I was a bit naive as to what I could accomplish. While walking the Camino, I stayed away from the high.end and middle end wines focused on the vino de la tierra and vino de la mesa. I had many average wine and a few good wines but sorry to say I found nothing spectacular. Then We went to Finisterre and we had our first WOW wine at the restaurant called Tirra do Cordel. The wine was an Albarino called Marques de Vizhoja. The next time we had a great wine was while we were visiting our friend Iker in San Sebastian. It was a txakolii called Txomin Etxaniz. While in Sevilla we decided to eat at La Taberna del Alabardedo, which is also in Washington D C and we tried two wines from Andalucia which were fantastic. We are now in Sanlucar de Barrameda, where we just finished a "private" tour of the La Gitana winery and I must say we were really impressed with the sherries, as every sample we tried came right out of the barrel. We have two more weeks in Spain before we leave for Rome and hopefully we will try a few more outstanding wines. Of course all these "wow" wines I will need to tell my friends at The Wine House in Fairfax, Va, and hopefully they can add them to their wonderful selections of Spaniah wines!

Friday, May 7, 2010

Day 37 Santiago de Compostela (April 24)

Last night was the most noisy night we've had in Spain. Our room in the Hostal Girasol was on the street side and there were a lot of people partying (pilgrims) until the wee hours. I thought I was done with earplugs but I had to dig them out of my backpack at 2 am. When we got up around 8 we packed up and headed over to the Hotel Windsor where they told us we could store our bags until check-in. We headed back to the cathedral area and had coffee then entered the cathedral to look around before the noon pilgrim' mass, but by this time it was nearly 1000 so we decided to stay for the 10 am mass with the intention of staying for the 1200 pilgrims' mass as well. There were a lot of people at the mass who were obviously with tour groups.  Many of them were quite noisy.  So much so that the priest had to ask for "silencio" several times.   We enjoyed the mass and when they started to swing the Botafumeiro,the the giant incense burner, it was very thrilling for us.

  video










Knowing this tradition has been carrying on since medieval times is very moving.  We thought we'd stay through at least the beginning of the next mass just so we could hear "two pilgrims from the United States walked from Saint Jean Pied de Port", but it was only 1100 so we headed outside thinking we would just head back in at 1145.  When we stepped out there were so many people waiting to get in, we knew there was no way for us to get back in for the 1200 pilgrim mass.  We saw many of our fellow pilgrims (Kaija, Tomas, Enrique, Luis) who were also frustrated at not being able to attend due to the number of tourists.  It is really sad that the cathedral folks do not make some kind of provisions for those pilgrims that have walked long distances.  Missing the pilgrsass just seemed to take away from the Camino experience.  

Afterwards we did some shopping and stopped for a coffee with Patricia and her husband who joined her in Santiago from France.  We returned to the cathedral square we met Duke and while we were talking, Rebecca and Ants arrived in Santiago.  We were so glad to see them!  We walked a bit and found the Three Amigos sitting outside enjoying a drink of herbal orujo, so we joined them.  Afterwards we bought them a sol y sombra.  A religious procession comprising of a band of drummers passed by. It was quite dramatic.  There were a couple of dozen players of different ages, men and women, dressed in white robes.  It was very exciting.  We made plans to visit Tomas and Enrique as we travel through Spain the next 5 weeks.

Next stop is to the end of the earth - Finisterre, but this time we are going by bus!

Wednesday, May 5, 2010

Day 36 Arca - Santiago (April 23)

We got up, showered, and were on the road by 8.  We stopped immediately for a coffee.  We saw a few familiar faces on the way ; young Annie and Andy.  The weather is quite overcast and the path is moist dirt - not mud.  Just outside of Arca we had a little bit of an ascent and then we paralleled the airport for a while.  We passed a bar so we stopped for a cafe con leche, as someone mentioned it might be the last place to stop before Santiago.  The way to Santiago is very crowded.  About 4 km from Santiago it started to drizzle.  We walked past a fairly large nature preserve.  As we did we ran into Tomas, Luis, and Enrique.  We walked with them for a while then they stopped for something to eat and we kept going and going and going.  We didn't stop again until we reached the cathedral.  It is a long walk to the cathedral once you arrive in the city. As we got closer we saw the 2 Spanish women.  They had just gotten their compostelas and were so happy.  They told us there was no line.  We saw Urtzi, the young Mexican couple and their friend- all of them had their compostelas and pointed us in the direction of the pilgrim office.  As we worked our way there we saw Dieter.  He was the first Pilgrim we had met way back in Valcarlos and to end our pilgrimage together in Santiago was just perfect.  We had a short celebration and then the three of us went to the pilgrim office together and got our compostelas.  Next we checked our backpacks for 1 euro and got in line to enter the cathedral. We waited for about an hour to hug the statue and see the saint's tomb where we left the prayers and intentions written by our friends and family members.  While we were waiting on line we saw Kaija, our Finnish friend.  Dieter needed to find a place to sleep for 2 nights so we went to the tourist office and they were no help.  Cullen remembered seeing the Pilgrim Travel Center on our walk into the city so we went there and they gave us a couple of places to check and they also told us getting rooms was very difficult because the Iceland volcano had caused a lot people to postpone their departure from Santiago until air travel resumed.  We were able to help Dieter find a place for 2 nights.  We had made a reservation for ourselves for 1 night at the Hostal Girasol, but had trouble getting a place for the second night.  After calling a dozen places we went back to the tourist office and they suggested we go to the Santiago Office of Tourism and indeed they were very helpful in finding us a room at the Hotel Windsor.   Once that was settled we walked around the city and ran into Tomas, Luis, and Enrique.  Tomas suggested we have dinner at the El Pasaje restaurant, which we did.  It was expensive, but delicious and we thought we should treat ourselves and celebrate our successful pilgrimage. Right before we left we saw Tomas, Luis and Enrique come in for dinner. Hopefully they did not spend as much as us!! We're looking forward to attending the pilgrim mass tomorrow.  

Sunday, May 2, 2010

Day 35 Arzua - Arca (April 22)

We got up around 7 with the group in our room.  I slept - thank goodness for earplugs!  We left the albergue and stopped for a coffee before starting out for the day.  The weather looked cloudy so once again we draped our ponchos over our packs.  We decided to stop at every bar along the way this morning and that may sound like a lot, but it really isn't.  The path itself is just great.  Dirt paths through forest.  Of course there are some muddy parts and some manure, but not much.  We ran into Kaija and 3 others from Finland at the first bar stop.  We ran into Anne the elder German woman  and three Filipino-Americans from Boston at the second bar stop.  At the third stop we ran into the three amigos.  Anne walked with us for a while but she must have stopped for a break.  Just before arriving in Arca there was a tourist office where we ran into Kaija, the young Mexican couple and their buddy.  When we arrived in Arca we saw Urtzi and the 2 Spanish women we've been seeing on and off since Molinesca.  The 3 of them were having foot/toe problems.  We found and checked into our Pension Arca.  We have great double room with bath for 40 euros.  There is a nice kitchen and outside area.  We walked back into town and had lunch at the restaurant right next door to the Guardia Civil building.  We had a very meal with the 3 Amigos which included spareribs.  Tomas treated us to the meal.  We had called Becky when we arrived in town and she called us back and said she was a couple of villages away and would call when she arrives.  When we got back to our room Becky called and she is staying at this pension as well.  She saw Dieter in Melide yesterday so we're hoping to see him today or tomorrow.  We are very excited about getting to Santiago tomorrow but sad at the same time that our pilgrimage will be coming to an end.  We had a nice dinner with Becky at the same place we had lunch.             

Saturday, May 1, 2010

Day 34 San Xulian - Arzua (April 21)

Got up around 7 and took our time getting ready because we want to stop in Melide for lunch (famous octopus) and since it's only abut 13 km we don't want to get there and have to wait for the place to open.  There are lots more pilgrims on the trail today.  When we started out there was kind of a clump of us. I really don't like starting my day with noisy pilgrims behind me.  Yes there are noisy pilgrims.  Pilgrims talking on cell phones, or talking loudly with each other.  So what I like to do if they're behind me is to just pick up the pace a bit to put some distance between us.  It was looking cloudy today so we draped our ponchos over our packs for easy access.  The trail itself was great today.  Through pine and eucalyptus forests.  Of course the wildflowers are all over!  The cuckoo bird continues calling, I think it's getting on Cullen's nerves (smile).  Today I saw rhododendrons in bloom for the first time which remind me of home in Virginia.  Happy cows are in big green pastures.  It started raining and it rained on and off.  We stopped in Melide and got to the restaurant Exequiel mentioned in the Brierley guidebook and it was already busy.  Saw lots of Pilgrims there including Rudy and Connie.  We had the pulpo (octopus), bacalao, potatoes, bread and vino for two for twenty euros.  The rain contined as we left Melide until we reached Arzua and then the sun came out.  We checked into the Albergue Via Lactea. The proprietors were very friendly, helpful and welcoming.  The albergue itself is quite nice; nice showers, nice outdoor area, good kitchen, Internet and it's close to bars, restaurants and shopping.  We know everyone in our room tonight - Connie, Rudy and their Spanish friends.  We went to the supermarket to pick up a snack.  Arzua is famous for it's cheese-making so we bought some and some bread and wine.  For dinner we went to the Casa Theodora and had a 
nice meal.  As we were leaving we ran into the 3 amigos; Tomas, Enrique, and Luis and it was like running into old friends since we've been seeing them since Fromista.  They advised us to make a reservation for the next town (Arca) which we did.  When we got back to our albergue we found there were now 40 middle schoolers staying here.  Luckily none are in our room.

Thursday, April 29, 2010

Day 33 Gonzar - San Xulian (April 20)

We had a good sleep and coffee and toast before starting out for the day.  Once again we have good weather.  We are loving the last few days of walking.  A little up and down and paths wide enough to walk side by side. Again the hedges line both sides of the path, at least part of the way.  Tiny yellow, purple, pink and white wildflowers all along the way.  We stopped at Palais del Ray for lunch.  It was delicious mixed salad, fried padron peppers, grilled squid, and really good bread.  Cullen had some Albarino wine while I stuck to water.  Today the mountains are far from view.  It is with mixed feelings when I realize we only have 3 more days of walking the Camino.  Physically I am ready to stop since my right pinkie toe has been hurting for a couple of days.  But there is something so special about meeting people of all ages from all over the world experiencing the same thing you are.  And seeing those same people on and off over a 5 week period has been a big part of my Camino.  We walked the extra 3 km to San Xulian as we had planned in order to avoid the crowds in Palais del Ray.  We have to thank Falcon for this tip.  The albergue here is quite cozy and one of the best we have stayed at.  We're supposed to meet Rudy, Connie, and their Spanish friends.  The proprietor, Miguel, is a wonderful fellow.  He took a crumbled down building like so many we have seen in the small villages and turned it into this very welcoming spot for pilgrims.  The cost is 10 euros and he offers dinner for another 10.  Plus there is a bar so we'll be able to have coffee before staring out tomorrow. Miguel is married to a lady from Cuba so the food here is a blend of Galiego and Cuban.  Their daughter is a musician who plays classical guitar and sings opera so we had a bit in common to talk about our daughters!  At 5 pm there were still a lot of pilgrims passing through.  An older German woman arrived at amour 5:30.  She spoke no Spanish or English.  Luckily one of the Portugese women speaks German.  It seems she lost her wallet of cash.  Someone volunteered to cover the cost of her meal and bed for the night but she left her backpack and is going to backtrack and look for her wallet since she thinks she knows where she dropped it.  She was gone nearly an hour but amazingly enough she found it!  Even more amazing to me is that she decided to continue walking even though it was nearly 7 pm by then.  We had a nice meal; caldo, pork fillets, salad, vino and bread.  For dessert we had a delicious cheese with quince.  After dinner we stayed in the dining room and watched the Barcelona / Milan soccer game.  The Portuguese ladies were the only ones routing for Milan -the coach is from Portugal and Milan won.  We met a young couple from Mexico tonight along with another Mexican man who was planning to walk the Camino with his wife but she passed away.  So he is carrying a credential for himself and for her and hoping to get compostelas for the both of them when he arrives in Santiago.  The young couple have been married for 15 years and have no children so they are walking to Santiago to ask St James for his help.  

Tuesday, April 27, 2010

Day 32 Barbadelo-Rente - Gonzar (April 19)

I woke up early and went down to the common area so i could wrap my toes up and be ready to go.  I'd like to go out with a little group in case those dogs are put - safety in numbers and all that.  We started out alone but the 2 young Germans weren't far behind so we walked slowly so they'd catch up and thankfully the dogs were not out this morning.  The first 7 km were very nice walking; tree lined paths or paths bordered by low stone fences.  Some streams, lots of wildflowers and the usual amount of dung avoidance areas.  Stopped in Morgade for a coffee and it looks like a very nice place to stay.  Some of these casas have such beautiful enclosed patios with an outside bar.  While we were sitting, a man came down with a suitcase and gave it to a taxi driver.  Shortly after he came down dressed to walk and carrying a little backpack.  If I do the Camino again that's the way We'd go.  You stay in private places so you're not taking up space in an albergue yet you are walking with a very light pack.  We walked to Portomarin, about 19 km.  We crossed paths with Kaija several times today.  She is very worried about being to fly home because of the volcano eruption in Iceland.  It was a great walk today.  Mostly on paths, some up and down, but nothing terrible.  Sometimes I feel like the route for pilgrims is someone's idea of a bad joke.  Really people?  Do we have to walk nearly 20 km only to have to climb several dozen steep, medieval steps to enter the city?  Believe me, at this point the drama is wearing me out.  The scenery though is just so gorgeous at times.  Meadows of grass and wildflowers.  One part of the walk today was through a stream and there were rectangular slabs of stepping stones for us to use.  The sound of running streams was with us most of the day as were the cuckoo birds.  And just when we thought we had seen the last of the storks -there one was in a farmer's field.  The path paralleled the highway part of the way but along most of it there was a natural barrier of some sort hedge.  There is one bush which at first I thought was Rosemary but this bush is thorny yet has a lovely yellow flower. There is also a hedge about 5 ft tall with tiny purple flowers.  One of my dreams actually came true today.  I've been dreaming about walking on a path covered with oh so soft pine needles.  The realty of my dream didn't last long, only about 40 ft.  We had a very decent paella in Portomarin and a very nice Albarino wine.  

Cullen checked a souvenir shop and came. back quite excited, he noticed that the store had a copy of the magazine La Moto and the picture of us standing at the Alto de Perdon was a two page spread for their article on the Camino.  Of course he bought the magazine so now we have a special memory of our Camino.  And of course Cullen showing the magazine to all peregrino friends! I walked in my crocs from Portomarin to Gonsar about 8 km.  This worked out very well for me again today though my boots are heavier to carry.  We are staying at the Casa Garcia tonight.  We have our own bedroom but we'll sharing a bath.  The waitress, Gina, was especially nice.  Dinner here was good, but usual spaghetti Bolognese, hake and Tarta de Santiago.  

Monday, April 26, 2010

Day 31 Triacastela - Barbadelo-Rente (April 18)

I woke up quite early and actually got out of bed at 0630.  Some people had already been up and gone.  We left the albergue and went back to last night's bar for coffee.  We were on the road to Sarria around 0745.  We decided to skip Samos and go the shorter route to Sarria - a difference of 7 km.  Unfortunately we missed a turnoff and ended up in Samos anyway.  The monastery was closed, but there was a big bicycle race getting underway. Was it worth the extra 7 km?  Not really.  When we arrived in Sarria we walked around a bit looking for a farmacia.  As we walked by a building an old Spaniard called out to us to come over.  I was not too sure about it but Cullen walked over and started talking to him.  The old guy, named Emilio Lopez Somoza, insisted I come over so I did and he then wanted to offer us some refreshments, so we walked through the building garage into a big meeting room with lots of Camino momentos and pictures.  First he had to show us a picture of him and President Clinton.  We never did fond out how he got his picture taken but he was very proud of it.  He then offered us anything we wanted from the frig.  We talked with him for about twenty minutes and then bid him adios.  Cullen took pictures of us with him and promised to send him copies when we got home. Sure was a nice moment.  We then stopped for some lunch.  My first paella here. It was a seafood paella.  It was a little salty and greasy, but okay.  I wore my crocs the rest of the way, about 5 km to Barbadella.  Walking in them wasn't bad at all.  I've talked to several people along the way who have done quite a bit of walking in their.  My little toe on my right foot is hurting so I thought I'd switch off.  I don't see a blister so I'm not sure what the trouble is.  It was a very nice walk from Sarria.  Tree lined paths,  not many rocks for a change.  We arrived at the municipal albergue and met a nice young couple from the Czech Republic.  Also staying here are Andy, young Annie, her German friend and the 2 young German men with the funny straw hats.  We walked up to the Casa Carmen for dinner and the French lady from the albergue joined us.  Unfortunately, we speak no French and she speaks no English or Spanish, which did not stop her from talking to us in French.  We managed to have a pleasant dinner together.  Rudy and Connie came I as well.  They have a room here.  We went for a walk before dinner to check out the Casa Nova since we heard they have a bar.  I really feel like we're in the middle of nowhere here.  Anyway we could see 2 dogs running towards us from about a football field length away.  I was hoping the old lady who obviously owned the dogs would call them back.  Instead she seemed to be egging them on.  They really frightened me so the lesson is to always take your stick when you go walking.  Same thing happened when we returned to the albergue - dang dogs.  There are lots of clouds out this evening and it has been raining on and off.  Cullen and I decided this is the last municipal albergue for us.  The sleeping area was way too cramped, the kitchen had no utensils, the common area was locked when we first arrived and then the hospitalero unlocked it for a couple of hours then locked it again.  Just not very conducive for conversation.  

Day 30 O'Cebreiro-Triacastela (April 17)

Had an okay sleep.  It looked like rain when we were getting ready to go so we put our ponchos on.  Luckily, the weather held and we didn't get rain until we arrived.  The walk here was quite beautiful.  Mountain views, meadows, and pastures.  We were very lucky to have clear view since our reference books warn us that there is usually a mist obscuring the view.  We got to a village and were hoping to find a place for some refreshment but the place was closed.  But a little old Spanish woman called put saying she Had pancakes if we would like some. So she gave a couple and asked for a donation and she also asked Cullen to kiss the saint's statue for her when we get to Santiago.  Later on, as we were leaving a lunch spot, an old Spanish couple were driving their 20 cows down the street.  They were so cute - yelling at the cows for going the wrong way and the old man had to chase down a runaway cow.  Right after that perhaps 200 meters further on, shred of goat and sheep came jingling by.  So finally we see who has been leaving all the droppings on the path!  We arrived at the albergue and there was only one bed left, but the hospitalero was kind enough to pull a fold away bed out of the closet for us. Lots of familiars here st this albergue; Andy, Duke, Patty, Han, Kaija, Birgitta, Neyong, and others.  We had a nice snack of cheese, bread, salad, and calamari so I don't think we need any supper tonight.  We decided to take a stroll around town and there were a couple of very decent looking places to eat.  We stopped at a bar and ran into the American couple we passed on the trail today.  They're from California - Rudy and Connie.  Very nice people.  We stayed in the bar with them for a couple of hours then headed back to the Refugio Oribio.  I liked the albergue very much but it's another hot night in the sleeping bag and a whole lot of snoring going on.  

Saturday, April 24, 2010

Day 29 Villafranca del Bierzo - O'Cebreiro (April 16)

We had a good sleep last night. Unfortunately, we did not get treated to a Quemada last night. Breakfast was offered at the Ave Fenix for 3 euros. We also decided to pay the proprietor 4 euros to haul our bags up the mountain for us. It's 30 km/18 miles and I just don't think we can make it all the way up carrying our packs. It was raining when we left so we wore our portable saunas, aka Altus ponchos. They keep us very dry but they don't breathe well. We saw beautiful views today. Heather covered hills. We took the road route because of the weather and much of it was along running river so it kind of drowned out the highway noise. Around 1030 the rain stopped and the sun came out. We passed a lot of cow and sheep pastures today. Happy cows, not like most of the cows we had previously seen in too small corralled areas. We stopped at just about every village on the way for refreshment. We're going to stay in the Casa Carolo tonight. It's the same place our packs will be dropped. The sunshine didn't last long. If it hadn't started raining today it would have been a great walk. When we were on the last part of the trip I felt like it could have been a scene from an old silent movie. The wind was blowing our ponchos, the rain was coming at us from all directions, a and we're on this narrow path winding it's way up the mountain. Well it was a long 8 hour day. And though we had asked for a full size bed and bathtub, we got neither for 48 euros. Once we got settled in we sat in the bar and watched a couple of old guys playing drums, guitar and accordion. There are a lot of tourists here. There weren' t too many on the trail today. It is such a nice feeling not to see anyone in front or behind.

Friday, April 23, 2010

Day 28 (Ponferrado - Villa Franca de bierzo (April 15)

Had a pretty good sleep. Got up and out by 0730. We followed the Spaniard from the Canary Island who we've been seeing sin e Mansilla because we noticed yesterday he did not follow the marked way around Ponferrada but must made a beeline to the albergue. I think he saved us a couple of km today. Lots of highway walking today, but at this point I don't care. My legs are feeling like lead and my pack feels like it weighs a ton. It was warmer todAy, but cloudy. It has been drizzling on and off. This should have been an easy day, but it wasn't. Who knows why? Saw Kaija, Birgitta, the 2 Annes, and a 72 years young Finland man named Seymour. The albergue we're staying in tonight, Ave Fenix, may do a Quemada which is the main reason we stayed here. we're having a communal meal which is always nice. We' re not very hungry for dinner because we had a great lunch at the Hostal T restaurant with Patricia when we arrived. It was quite a good meal. Villa Franca is a very nice town

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

Day 27 Foncebadon - Ponferrada (April 14)

I didn´t sleep too well so I got up early. The view is beautiful from the albergue. It is very cloudy, but the sky looks great! We left around 8:30, and it was 32 degrees F. A bit chilly. We started walking and we saw a few snow flurries. We made it to the Cruz de Ferro and there were quite a few pilgrims there taking photos. Cullen´s buddy, Ramon, took picture of us depositing our stone (and an arrowhead for a coworker) on the pile. To imagine the millions of pilgrims who did this very thing was grand. We walked the 7 miles to Acebo. It was really hard on the knees, but it is great to be in the mountains again. Acebo was a beautiful town. ONe of the few that actually seemed prosperous. We picked up a delicious orange, a banana and some chocolates at Josefina´s Tienda. We passed by Manjarin, the real atmospheric place. Not for me, sorry. It seemed like we had to walk around the entire city of Ponferrada in order to get to the municipal. I was so aggravated after walking 18 miles. They were slow in checking us in and they weren´t very welcoming. The showers were good though and the toilets ample and the clothes line was fine. The kitchen seemed well equipped, many prepared a meal for themselves. There were 2 sets of bunks in our room which we shared with a young Spanish couple. from Barcelona. Last year they walked from St Jean to Burgos and this year they are walking from Astorga to Santiago. So, pretty much they skipped the entire meseta which is too bad. Met a young American woman from Park Slope in Brooklyn. She hadn´t done a lot of prep work and she was feeling a bit overwhelmed. She decided to take a bus to Sarria and just do the Camino from there. We had dinner with Kate, Kaija (Finland) Brigitta (Finland), Patricia (France) and Bjorn (German). Thank goodness they all speak English!

Day 26 Astorga to Foncebadon (April 13)

Got a bit of a late start today. Cullen was feeling congested so we wanted to stop at a pharmacy for some meds. Afterward we walked really quick and stopped Santa Catalina de Somoza, the first bar/albergue on the right. Though we didn´t go in, I noticed there was a sign for bacon, eggs, and potatoes for 5 euros. This albergue looked very pleasant. The mountains are ahead of us. The walkway was okay but after a couple of kilometers the path seemed covered with tree roots. We came upon a woman who had tripped and fell right on her head. There were many tending to her and the 3 Spanish men we´ve been seeing on and off told Cullen an ambulance had been called but they were very busy with pilgrim accidents. When we arrived in Rabinal we took a break to assess whether or not to continue. Cullen decided he was feeling pretty good so we went on. It was only another 4 Km but those 4 km were the most difficult of the day. Up, up, up a narrow rocky path. Something we haven´t seen in a while. We were heading to the Monte Illago albergue, but Duke was outside the first albergue and we decided to just tay there since it had both a bar and a restaurant. This town is indeed like a ghost town with more tumble down buildings than usual. 2 of Cullen´s Spanish men friends (Ramon and some other) were in the bar when we arrived. They were very concerned about Cullen´s health because last time we saw him he was having tummy trouble. Dinner at the Albergue was okay. Cullen introduced Duke, Patty, Han to the sol y sombra. Rebecca and Ants (kiwis) also showed up at the albergue and I guess the put all the English speakers in one room with the exception of a young Brazilian man who also spoke English. We met a young German American Girl, named Annie, she´s only 23 and walking on her own. We ran into Becky in Rabanal and she was going to stay there for the night.

Just a comment about the Albergue, the room smelled really bad. I don´t know if we pilgrims all smell or if the room smells. And the showers were not the greatest.

Day 25 Villar de Mazarife to Astorga (April 12)

Good Lord! Great weather again! We left the albergue last again. We immediately ran into Becky and walked the entire day with her - it was great! The walk was actually long and hard today, but we did get back into some hilly areas. There were lots of stones on the path. Hard walking. But lots of beauty as well. More storks nests and wildflowers. We even saw some livestock today - cows and pigs. We saw huge piles of celery root (celeriac) waiting to get picked up and distributed to market. We thought we´d only make it to Santibanez today. A ¨short¨ 12 mile walk. No way did we think we could make it all the way to Astorga, but we did. When we arrived in Santibanez we felt good and thought we could make it to the town just before Astorga. But, 4 km out of Astorga we came across a fellow (Bruno) with a fruit-drink stand and he spoke pretty good English and he told us it was an easy walk from there into Astorga, so off we went. He also recommended we should stay at the San Javier Albergue, which we did after checking out the municipal and not feeling too good about the place. San Javier was wonderful. There were two hospitaleros; Maya Louisa and Paco. Paco took care of those people with foot problems. Perhaps not as professional in the foot department as Laura was in Mansilla, but still a very caring person. The showers were nice, the bunks were nice, sufficient toilets and only 8 euros. A very dapper local man wearing an Alpine type hat herded several of us into the convent for mass. The nuns sang and the priest asked the pilgrims to carry the prayers of the sisters to Santiago. We had a great meal at the Hotel Gaudi. The Albergue gave us a coupon and for 11.50 euro we got ensalata mista, a whole baked fish and for dessert arroz con leche. Vino and bread too of course. A perfect end to a hard day. Before dinner Cullen, Becky and I sat at the bar and had sol y sombras. The bartender didn´t know how to make it so Cullen instructed her. They were very generous portions.

I feel like the weather has changed temps really dipped when the sun went down.

Tuesday, April 13, 2010

Day 24 Leon to Villar de Mazarife (April 11)

Before starting our walk we had breakfast in the Parador. A huge buffet! We saw Ann there. We left late, around 0945. Dare I say it? Another beautiful day in Espana. We walked a few miles to La Virgen del Camino and had a coffee. we continued on and shortly after, we ran into Dieter, and then Sara. Doesn´t seem like too many people took this alternate route. The way here was nice. The past few days we have had the snow covered mountains in the distance to our North. Today I didn´t see them until we left Oncina de la Valdocina. When I turned to see where Cullen was, there were the mountains. The way took us through farm fields, but where there weren´t fields planted, there were wild flowers. We arrived in Chozas de Abajo and had a coke and beer. The bartender was very nice. There were a couple of interesting Santiago statures along the way. We had decided to stay at Alberque Tio Pepes before we arrived in town. We had a room with 2 sets of bunk beds and happily, no one else stayed in our room. It was noisy as the Brierley book said it would be. Was hoping to catch up on the blog posting there but alas the advertised internet was not working. Very disappointing since it was one of the main reasons for staying. We had the menu of the day there and the food was not good. And it was noisy until 10:00 pm. There was a tub in one of the bathrooms and it had a stopper. If you are looking for a rest in the afternoon, this is not the place for you. Though Dieter got a private room for 20 euros and he said it was very quiet. Lots of 20 somethings hanging around making quite a racket on a Sunday afternoon. We did see 3 storks´nests in the church across the street from the albergue. The owner did give us free shots of orujo after dinner, so maybe it wasn´t such a bad place after all.

Day 23 Mansilla de las Mulas to Leon (April 10th)

The bus dropped us off at the bus station in Leon. We made our way to the tourist office near the cathedral to pick up maps and to get info about places to stay. Cullen and I decided to splurge and went to the Parador. We had a great room with big towels, a tub, shampoo, conditioner, a little balcony with a view of a stork´s nest, a TV and free wifi. We went for a walk and checked out the cathedral. It was very beautiful and very different from the cathedral in Burgos. Lots more stained glass. We walked a round a bit and really liked the city. Went back to the Parador for a big lunch and a bottle of Peregrino wine and then had our first siesta. After siesta we walked back into the city and had a couple of tapas and some wine. We visited the Gaudi bank building. Went back to the room and watched the ultimate soccer match Real Madrid versus Barcelona. We couldn´t stay up for the whole game but Barcelona won 2-0. It was a great, relaxing day. Just what we needed.

Day 22 Bercianos Real Camino to Mansilla de las Mulas (April 9)

We got up this morning and both of us were out of sorts physically. We didn´t even have a coffee! We walked about 4 miles to El Bergo Ranero. We ran into a bunch of Spanish gentlemen Cullen has become acquainted with and they recommended he have a cup of Manzanilla caliente - a cup of hot tea. We continued on and ran into Becky. She couldn´t walk another step last night and so she stayed at the hostel in Bercianos rather than walking to the far end of town to the albergue. A good choice for her since she had already walked quite a ways when we ran into her yesterday. And, she had a room with a tub! We arrived in Mansilla de las Mulas via the alternate route as recommended in the Brierley book. Cullen was continuing to have tummy trouble today. The municipal albergue was quite nice. The hospitalero, Laura, is an angel. Soon after siesta she had a line of pilgrims in her office waiting for blister treatments, tummy trouble, muscle aches. She took care of my blisters and those of many others. The Finnish woman had been having shin problems, Laura´s mom gave her a massage. Dieter had been there for a second night with tummy problems and she was taking care of him and she also gave Cullen something for his tummy. Since Cullen really couldn´t go out for a meal I shared a simple meal of cheese, bread and banana with Anne (German) and the Finnish woman - I can´t remember her name right now. A few of us stayed up later and had a great discussion with Laura about The Way. We discussed different historical stories, symbols and traditions. She seems to have devoted her life to the Camino and to the pilgrims. I had a good night´s sleep. We went to a bar around the corner for coffee and Dieter and Sara came in. We all took the bus the 18km to Leon.

Friday, April 9, 2010

Day 21 Terradillos de los Templarios to Bersiano Real Camino (Apr 8)

Had an okay dinner at the albergue. We stopped in at the Peaceable Kingdom in Moratinos and met Rebekah´s husband, Pat. We were walking down the street and saw a man walking a couple of greyhounds and so we took a chance and sure enough it was Pat. What a treat to meet him and all the various animals they have taken in. He was good enough to offer us coffee and biscuits and we chatted for about an hour and were only sorry that Rebekah was not there. We left the PK and stopped at the Langanares albergue in San Nicolas del Real Camino for another coffee. The albergue seemed very nice with a pleasant outdoor area. Left there and made it to Sahagun. We have a really big meal there and another lesson was learned - don´t eat a big meal (and drink a bottle of wine) with another 6 miles to go. We ran into Becky who we hadn´t seen since Burgos and walked a way with her. She had been walking 10 km more than us already that day so we went on ahead. The walk from Sahagun was not great - lots of construction going on. The hostel at the beginning of he town had single rooms-some with bathtubs we later found out from Becky costing around 25 euros. We continued on to the parochial albergue since we were interested in a communal meal a service. We arrived late and there were already many familiar faces there. We were so tired, that we just didn´t feel like showering or washing clothes. I had bought a small bottle of shampoo (luxury item) earlier in the day, but will have to wait another day to use it. Supper was a leak and potato soup and lentils with rice. Everyone helped with either cooking or cleaning up. After supper the hospitalero from Belgium invited whoever was interested to a service. Not a religious service, but certainly spiritual. She lit candles and asked us to share any thoughts with the group. Afterward, the German contingent sang a hymn and it was really quite moving. I slept with earplugs in for the first time and it helped me quite a bit. I slept well, but during the night Cullen got up 3 or 4 times with a bad tummy. waaaaahh!

Wednesday, April 7, 2010

Day 20 Carrion de los Condas to Terradillos de los Temparios (April 7)

There were 4 beds in the room last night in Carrion. Some rooms had only 2. It seems the 2 bed rooms were given to the single women. We shared our room with a French couple who were our age and we went to sleep and woke up at the same time which was nice for a change. We have been blessed with another beautiful day. A bit chilly and cloudy, but the sun is shining. We walked the 10 miles to Calzadilla de la Cueza and had coffee and a delicious tortilla sandwich at the bar in the albergue Camino Real. This albergue looked like a nice place to stay. Walking between the fields today a tractor was plowing and he was being followed by 3 of those huge white birds which look like sheep from a distance when they land. The clouds are incredible, low hanging and seem more like a picture than real. The last 6 miles were not bad. One of the best pieces of advice I´ve read on the forum is to rest 10 minutes for every hour you walk. We got to the first Albergue just before town, but follow the arrows into the town until you (we) arrived at the Jacques Mornay albergue. Very family like atmosphere. Wonderful hot showers, single beds (not bunks), plenty of line to dry clothes. We have some familiar faces here, Andy the young German we met in Grañon, Duke the American traveling with a Canadian and Korean, and the young New Zealand couple.

The Meseta is kicking my butt. I thought it would be a piece of cake for my toes. Turns out my toes prefer up and down terrain to flat for walking. Though my knees prefer the flat surface.

Day 19 Fromista to Carrion de los Condes (6 April)

Had a good sleep at the hostel. Breakfast was okay. The hostess gave me a souvenir thimble which I guess after paying 45 euros (10 more than the book said) for the night, didn´t seem very generous. We left around 0830 and I think we were the last to leave the town which is fine by me. Another beautiful morning. Yesterday and today the sun and moon were visible. Still seeing storks here in Fromista and in Boadilla. The birds are really singing today. The forsythia are in bloom and we´ve passed some hyacinths as well. We stopped for coffee in Villarmenter de Compos and ran into an American (www.walkingeast.com) who has been walking for 12 or 18 months. Walked across the U.S.A. and is now heading to Jerusalem. That´s the second person I´ve met who walked across the U.S.A. The first was a South African woman who did it in 8 months. Cullen refuses to walk across the U.S.A. Guess I´ll have to cross that off my list of things to do! We arrived and decided to stay at the Monastery de Santa Clara for the night. There is also an albergue run by a different order of nuns, but this is the first place and we thought it might be the one recommended by the hospitalero in Castrojeriz. Oh well. They have a lot of shops in this town. There was a pretty decent outdoor shop selling the altus rain ponchos and a lot of other hiking gear. A nice grocery store not from the albergue where we picked up supplies for tonight and tomorrow. We were warned in the Brierley book to pack what we need because there is nothing for 10 miles once we leave here in the morning.

Tuesday, April 6, 2010

Day 18 Castrojeriz to Fromista (April 5)

We thought we´d walk to Boadillo today but decided instead to go all the way to Fromista for a cash machine. We did stop in Boadillo at the albergue En El Camino and the hostess was so friendly and the setting so tranquil and welcoming that I´m sorry we aren´t spending the night. The route into Fromista was very nice, along the canal lined with mini wildflowers. We´ve seen the snow covered mountains to our North most of the way. Hopefully we won´t be walking into them. I got my first blister today. Imagine 2 weeks without any trouble and now I get a blister. When we arrived in Fromista we felt like we were in the wild west. But instead of a herd of cows, a herd of sheep were going down main street. We were pretty tire so decided to stay at a Camino Santiago hostal tonight. It is adjacent to the albergue. We went to the albergue to access the internet and it looked quite nice! I liked Fromista. It seemed to be a properous town. We were going to try the restaurant recommended in the Brierley book, but it seemed from the menu to be a bit pricey so we went somewhere else.

Monday, April 5, 2010

Day 17 Hormillos to Castrojeriz Happy Easter! (April 4)

Had a good night´s sleep. The noisiest one in the room was Cullen. And, his alarm went off at 0645, which was probably a good thing because the Austrians were suppposed to get up at 0630. Despite the weather forecast, it was a clear morning. It was very cold, but the sky was blue and the sun was shining. The mud puddles were frozen. Perfect walking weather! Stopped for a coffee in Hontanas since San Bol didn´t appear open. another 2 hour walk without a first cup! If we could have walked another 11 km yesterday I would have gone on to Hontanas from Hormillos. If the Irish couple would have been with us we would have! Hontanas seemed much nicer than Hormillos. Anyway, while we were enjoying our coffee and bocadillo, the church bells started ringing in the church right across from the bar. They rang and rang and rang. It was really loud so I hurried Cullen up . It was a nice walk the rest of the way. Beautiful weather and scenery. I did slip into a mud puddle, thought I could walk around it, but in I went. Oh well, its only mud. We passed the Convento de San Anton - amazing. There is an albergue there. We got to the Albergue Traditionale in Castrojeriz around 1320, but it doesn´t open until 1500 so we went to the Meson Restaurant for lunch and had a great big plate of green beans, pimientos stuffed with some kind of shrimp stuff and rice pudding. Delicious! The 2 Korean girls decided to stay at the same one even though there are 4 other albergues here.
So the Albergue Traditional is quite primitive. Two things would have made it perfect; heat and toilet seats. Other than that the hopitaleros were wonderful hosts. They invited us up to the dining area for a ¨Quemada¨, which is a Spanish drink. It was quite an elaborate preparation and presentation. I don´t recall the ingredients except for sugar, raisins, absinthe and water. But he lit the whole thing in a ceramic bowl, off went the lights and with a ceramic ladle provided quite a show of flame pouring from the ladle into the bowl while speaking some incantation about light and flame and cleansing. When that was finished he did a rendition of Amazing Grace. Then off to bed. This was one of those nights when I´m dreading getting up in the cold and sitting on the toilet without a seat, thinking I can´t do this another day. And then, we get up have the breakfast provided by our hospitaleros Emilio and Jose. Emilio walked us out and as we started down the street he sang Auld Lang Syne in Spanish. A Camino moment!

Sunday, April 4, 2010

Day 16 Burgos to Hormillos (April 3)

We left the Albergue today and it was raining. A bit more than a drizzle, but not a downpour. The rain cleaned our dirty boots and then the wind blew us dry. Then, the mud got us dirty again. It was not a bad walk . The route out of Burgos was nice. We walked to Tardejos and had a coffee. We walked pretty quick and were probably the 13th or 14 pilgrims to arrive in Hormillos. We had hot showers, washed laundry in cold water outside - it was chilly. Our room had 8 other pilgrims in it it. 6 of them Austrians . The hospitalero here is a young Spanish woman. She spoke very good English. She works in the morning and her mother works the afternoon/evening shift. There was only 1 bar in town and 1 small shop for groceries. The bar was right across the street from the albergue and it offered a menu del dia for 9 euro. I had a sol y sombra in the bar to check the chill out of my bones. Cullen wants me to mention the "auto peregrino". These are folks that drive from place to place. The stop at the albergues and use the kitchen facilities to fix a meal and then they go on their way. The hospitalero did not approve, but they cleaned up after themselves and didn´t seem to be a problem. Perhaps if there were more pilgrims trying to use the same space it might cause a problem. This is the first albergue I´ve seen fill up. The hospitalero had to find alternate arrangements for at least 3 late arrivals. I think she put them up above the bar somewhere. Went to the bar for dinner and shared a table with a nice German couple (Peter and Brigette). We first met in Ages, then saw them again in Burgos. After dinner, back to the albergue for conversation in the common kitchen area.The French couple (Alex and Annie) we met in Grañon were there. She has been having a lot of trouble with her feet. There was a young Spaniard offering massage service for a reasonable price so she signed up for one and when I saw her later she seemed well improved after a massage, herbal treatment and a gauze wrap around her feet. Cullen had a nice conversation with an older Spaniard from Madrid. I´m happy again that he is able to converse. It was a very cold evening in Hormillos. We heard the weather is going to be cloudy and rainy in the morning and clearing up.

Friday, April 2, 2010

Day 15 A day in Burgos (2 April)

We decided to stay in Burgos an extra day. The hospitaleros said we would have to check out at 8 then come back at noon to get a bed. Happily we got a bed! As we had planned, we had tapas for dinner last night with Dieter and Maura. She left today to return to London, but she is planning to return to the Camino in the fall. We had a very good sleep last night. Well, except for the party that broke out in the street around 0430. We said farewell to Katherine (Austrian sister) and said farewell as she was leaving to walk on. Her sister, Andrea will be returning to Austria today. We said an emotional farewell to her. She was sad to leave the Camino and her sister but her kindergarten class will be waiting for her to return. We met Dieter in the lobby at 8 as we had planned, hoping he would stay an extra day with us in Burgos. He decided he was going to leave Burgos and walk a bit then find a single room to himself for the night. He needed to catch up on sleep and writing. Hopefully we will catch him in the next day or two. We walked over to the bar with him and had a coffee and croissant then went our separate ways for now. We did a bit of touring in the morning. Visiting the cathedral and the Saint Nicholas of Bari Church. The entire altar area was carved stone - not the usual wood and gold leaf we´ve seen so much of. We splurged on a delicious meal today. Went to a nice restaurant today (Casa Pena) on c/Calzado 7. We must have passed it on the way into the city today. Had the Morchilla, tomato and asparagus salads, lamb, bread wine and a delicious Tarta de la casa. On our way back to the albergue we ran into Rebecca and Ants, the young New Zealanders we met early on. It was great to see them. They were looking for the albergue so we walked them here and then met Becky in the common area! So glad to see her. One of the unique things about this Camino is that although we´ve only met these folks 2 weeks ago, it seems when we see them again that they are long lost friends. Cullen just checked the weather and he said snow is predicted for Burgos on Sunday. It´s a good thing we´re leaving on Saturday!

Thursday, April 1, 2010

Day 14 Ages to Burgos (April 1)

We got up early and were on the road by 0715. It was still dark and we were the last ones out (aside from Juan Ramon the cyclist). There was cold coffee and bread left so we had some. We walked a couple of hours then stopped at a bar which was way too crowded with pilgrims and very smokey. The next place to stop was in Orbaneja which is mentioned in the Brierley book. We had great coffee and a special Easter confection called Torrellegas (spelling may be wrong). The day is a little cool and it was cloudy/hazy. Once we left Atapuerca the walk became difficult. Lots of mud and wet rocks uphill and downhill. After our coffee stop, 2 Spanish girls and a young Spanish man asked us to take their photo. We had met them in Grañon. The girls were leaving him to take the bus to Valencia. He asked if we wanted to walk with him on the alternate route into Burgos to avoid highway traffic. We felt adventurous so said we would. We slopped thru muddy fields - this is the dirtiest I have been. We walked alongside the airport. The sun came out and we started to get too warm so once we hit a city street we said our goodbyes and thanked him for showing us this way. I´m sure it cut a couple of miles off of today´s walk. We had several more miles to walk. We arrived at the Cathedral and WOW! It´s huge. Found the municipal albergue - Jacobean. Great location, modern, clean, hot showers, what more could we ask for? All for only 3 euros each. The Austrian sisters are here as is the German couple from last night and several others from Grañon and Belorado. We went for a stroll to check out the cathedral. Stopped for churros and chocolate. We´re planning tapas for dinner so we can watch the procession tonight at 8. Guess who just walked in? Dieter!! We are so happy to see him. He arrived from San Juan de Ortega!

Wednesday, March 31, 2010

Day 13 Belorado to Ages (March 31)

We got up early and started at 0720 our earliest start yet. Too bad we had to walk 2 hours to find an open bar for our first cup of coffee. One other comment about the albergue last night. By the time the hospitalero got up and had the coffee going, more than half the pilgrims were gone. The place we stopped at on the way had okay coffee and the bocadillo de chorizo was probably the worst we had yet. The sky was full of clouds in every direction. We really pushed walking today. We had to decide for a short day or a long day. Stop and call it a day at Villa Franca de Oca or commit to San Juan de Ortega. We decided to push on since we were feeling pretty good. We stopped for a bite at San Juan de Ortega and decided to the extra 3.5 km to Ages based primarily on the fact that the albergue at San Juan de Ortega did not have hot showers. We ran into the Austrian sisters when we stopped and they asked if they could join us as we walked to Ages. Cullen had mochilla (blood sausages) to eat. I played it safe with a tortilla con chorizo. The girls said they saw Dieter at Santo Domingo de Calzado a couple of days ago. He´s not far behind us. I think we´re going to dally a couple of days so our arrival in Santiago is on a Saturday, so we may meet up with him there. The last miles from Belorado to Ortega were through forest. Mostly on a very wide path which was probably used for logging. Lots of big ruts. Thank goodness no rain even though the clouds have been with us all day. When we arrived in Ages it seemed to be a ghost town. Not even a barking dog to welcome us! We saw the sign for the El Pejar albergue (private) and decided to stay. The albergue was run by a nice couple and we opted to have dinner there since we didn´t see any other options in Ages. We had nice hot showers, the albergue is bright and clean. Wooden lockers. A couple of internet machines and a dining room used as a game room, or for writing when not being used to dine. We combined our laundry with the sisters and had use of the washer and dryer for 6 euros. IT started to pour rain around 6 pm and it was running down the streets passed the albergue. Dinner was good. For starters, arroz con pollo, then tortilla with salad and peppers and ice cream for dessert. We were joined at our table by a maybe 35 year old Spaniard doing part of the Camino by bicycle. His name was Juan Ramon and he and Cullen had a very interesting discussion about a variety of subjects. I´m so glad Cullen was able to use his Spanish for something besides finding beds and ordering food!

Tuesday, March 30, 2010

Day 12 Grañon to Belorado (March 30)

When we woke up the wind was still howling! Alberto and David (hospitaleros) had breakfast ready for us (bread, coffee, juice). Alberto took Cullen and I into the church before we left. Another beautiful church. Mass last night was in the chapel so it was nice of him to show us the church. When we left the albergue the wind was blowing as hard (or harder) as it was the afternoon we arrived in Roncevalles! The first 4 miles it was blowing right at us. I can´t even tell you what the scenery was like on this leg of the journey since my head was down against the wind the whole way. And, all I heard all day was the wind blowing. We walked only 10 miles today, but it felt like 20. We finally arrived in Belorado and went directly to the bar. We got on the internet, sent some emails posted a day or two to our blog, then decided where to stay the night. There were 3 albergues. The parochial, the Cuatro Cantones and another that was new and no info in any of our references. So we stayed in Cuatro Cantones. I think there were 18 or 20 beds in the room. A women´s toilet, a men´s toilet and 2 showers with cold water only. We passed on the chicken dinner offered by the hospitalero. Instead we went to the grocery store and Cullen bought the fixings for a tortilla with 6 eggs, 2 potatoes, onion, chorizo. We ate the whole thing plus a half loaf of bread and a bottle of wine to wash it all down with! Although the bathroom and showers were clean, the kitchen was not so much. Also only cold water to hand wash our clothes tonight. After dinner we walked over to the Church and went inside. An older woman started talking to me in Spanish and I communicated (in Spanish) that I was a pilgrim from the U.S. Cullen came over to join the conversation and she told him she was 90 years old. She said the procession they have in Belorado is quite grand and it was a shame we wouldn´t be there for it. I´ve met more pilgrims each day who have started in Logroño. We went to bed around 9.

Day 11 Azofro to Grañon (March 28)

Another beautiful morning. We stopped at the restaurant Seville, had coffee, and bought a couple of bocadillos for the road. There were a lot of bicyclists there. They seemed to be in a biking club all wearing the same logo on their shirts. They loaded all their gear into a van before leaving. What a noisy bunch. Once we started walking, a couple of other cyclists passed us carrying the own gear. One fellow was towing a little ¨tiny¨ trailer. It was not a bad walk to Grañon. We planned a stop here because one of the forum members is supposed to be the hospitallero at the albergue in Granon. The walk was very noisy - construction and highway noise. I wish we could get to walk on something soft instead of pavement and rocks. We walked to Circuena and made a stopfor coffe and tortilla. Our second stop was in Santo Domingo de Claderas to check out the ¨Chicken church. Then continued. We stopped just outside of the city, just before the bridge and ate our lunch. There were many stork nests in the area. They were build on top of poles that seemed to have been placed there for just that purpose. I don´t know if we were tired or what, but the walk from Santo Domingo de la Calzada to Grañon was difficult for us. When we arrived at the albergue, Alberto welcomed us. it was his last day David would be replacing him. We stayed in the attic of the St John the Baptist church. It was probably the most rustic place we´ve slept in. Just mats on the floor. There were about 20 of us in the room. There were a few people we had met previously. Many German and Spanish pilgrims, one young man from South Africa and a young lady from Switzerland. We showered and did our laundry. I don´t understand why the washing machines here take soooooo long! I really miss real towels. We went to mass at 1900 in the chapel. Though the mass was in Spanish, the priest offered the pilgrims a special blessing in English and Spanish. It was very moving. After mass, the hospitalleros cooked supper tonight. Pretty good pasta - Alberto is Italian! delicious bread, asparagus, tomato salad. Our first pilgrim meal. One of the German pilgrims spoke to us about the German route. I have to investigate that more. One of the younger Germans played a few tunes on the piano. He was quite good. When we went to bed the wind was howling.

Sunday, March 28, 2010

Day 10 Naverette to Azofra (March 28)

We were the only ones in the Albergue in Naverette last night. We had a good sleep and woke to more beautiful blue skies. There was no offering of food or drink when we got up so we just left and walked about an hour to Ventosa and stopped at the first bar. More great coffee and a chocolate croissant - yum. They also had wifi so we took advantage and sent a couple of emails with the iTouch. Not much to see on the way out of town. A snow covered mountain was on our left in the distance most of the way. Got to Najera and saw a big stork´s nest. Stopped on the Plaza de Espana for a caña, coffee and egg salad sandwich. The plaza was quite lively since it was Palm Sunday. Just 4 more miles to Azofra! Passed 2 wineries - here´s a shout out to our friends at The Wine House in Fairfax! When we arrived in Azofra we were hoping to stay at a private Albergue but only the municipal was opened. The sleeping arrangement is great because there are only 2 beds to a room. The are men/women toilets, but there are 4 shower stalls - coed. The hospitallera here is a young American woman originally from Columbia, MD. There are computers, but no wifi. Today I spoke to my mom and brother so all is good. It was a pretty easy walk. We had dinner in the restaurant Seville and were joined by a Spanish couple about our age. Though I did not contribute much to the conversation, I was able to follow along pretty well. I had a great meal of 2 fried eggs, chorizo, jamon, fries, bread and wine. Cullen had veal cutlet and fries. Both of us had flan for dessert. Went back to the albergue after supper and met a 79 year old Spaniard walking the Camino. Had a good night´s sleep.

Day 9 Logroño to Naverette (March 27)

Had a good sleep last night in the pension. Took advantage of another shower with real shampoo provided by the proprietor. Definitely have to do a pension once a week to rejuvenate! Living out of a backpack is hard. There was a bar open right outside our pension so we stopped in for a coffee (the best yet)and a most delicious pastry. We had an hour until the library opened so we had a second cup. We caught up on our postings-emails then headed out and had a very lovely walk around the lake. Another beautiful day. We passed the fence of crosses mentioned in the guide book. Pilgrims are very inventive. There was a cross made out of a water bottle. We decided to stay at the El Cantaro Albergue when we arrived in Naverette because it was smaller than the first albergue you run into when you arrive in town. The owner was very welcoming and did the wash for 3 euros. I´m getting used to paying someone to do my wash! The building had lovely tile work throughout it was very clean, wooden lockers, separate women/men showers and toilets. Luxury! There were 6 bunks in the room. It was 10 euros per person for the night. We went for a walk around the town before dinner and checked out the church. I´m amazed at the enormity of the churches. Stopped at the ¨Deportivo¨ bar/cafe and ran into some pilgrims we had met previously. Had a decent meal for 12 euros; Chick peas and spinach, stuffed peppers and arroz con leche. Cullen had garlic soup (again), ribs and fries, and yogurt.

Saturday, March 27, 2010

Day 8 Los Arcos to Logroño (March 26)

After our goodbyes we started walking under blue skies. We stopped and bought some supplies for the day. Something we did not do the day before and we sorry we had not. We stopped in Sansol for a cafe and passed a couple of very attractive albergues. The walk wasn´t bad, but since we had not had a good night´s sleep we were going to stop in Viana for the night. We ran into a couple of young Spanish men whom we met on the first day out of Roncevalles and they were going to continue to Logrono. One said to me, ¨Palma, have a coffee, a bocadillo and a beer then continue to Logrono. It´s an easy walk, mostly downhill¨. Though we didn´t have the coffee or bocadillo, Cullen had a beer and we continued to Logrono. It was not a bad walk so we´re glad we went on. As soon as we arrived we headed to the tourist office and found a pension for the night. After 8 days of walking, we are ready for a bed and bath to ourselves. We hit ¨Tapas row¨ and enjoyed great food and wine. During the evening in Logrono we ran into the first of many (I hope) religious processions. It consisted of a large statue of the Black Virgin being carried by about 10 men and women. The virgin was carrying a set of rosary beads which swayed as they carried her. There was a good sized band of brash and drums. I can´t begin to describe the feeling of watching that event.

So far, no blisters-thanks to all who suggested coating your feet with vaseline everyday. The only complaint is the inside of my arch-instep feels sore. It only hurts when my boots are off. Bwahahahaha.

Day 7 Lorca to Los Arcos (March 25)

The folks at the albergue were kind enough to get up and make us cafe con leche and toast this morning. We left around 0830 and had intended to make it to Irache and get a hotel. But we were making good time with the Irish pilgrims and decided to forge ahead. It was great to see the wine spigot and fill our bottle a bit. No lines, no busloads. We did stop in the hotel and they gave us access to the coffee machine and the bathroom which was great. We arrived in Los Arcos around 1815 and made the mistake of stopping in the first Albergue we came to because we were tired. A young South African woman gave us good advice the next day to pass the first albergue by. She stayed at the last albergue and there were only two people staying there. There were lots of pilgrims in the albergue we stayed in, which was okay because we ran into many we had met before. It was a very noisy night - 2 snorers who could wake the dead. At breakfast Billy and Christine (Irish) were pushing to Navarette. They are on a tighter schedule than we are to we said farewell to them.

Day 6 Uterga to Lorca (March 24)

We had a pretty good sleep in Uterga though the beds were very noisy when anyone moved. We hit the road at 8. One of the pilgrims we met last night was Vicente, a young Spaniard who will be walking to Estrella today. Not us. We´re hoping to make it to Lorca. This was one of the most beautiful mornings. The sky, the scenery - unbelievable. We took the detour to Eunate. Unfortunately, the octagonal church didn´t open until 1030 and it was 0930 when we got there. They did have the sello outside on a table so we took advantage and stamped our credential. Made it to Puenta la Reina and saw the Brazilians. They were staying there for the night. The daughter was having knee trouble. We probably won´t see them again on the way. Saw our first stork and nest today! As we were taking in the view right outside of Puerta la Reina a couple passed us by, when we caught up with them as they were taking a break we started chatting and found out they were from Ireland. We walked with them the rest of the way to Lorca and had a grand time! We passed a lot of vineyards today, more than any other day so far. Lots of olive groves as well. We all got a bed in the albregue La Bodega del Camino. 8 euro per and dinner for another 10. No choices tonight, just pasta, pork, peppers, fries, vino, bread and ice cream. Once again when we went to the bedroom after dinner a young pilgrim already had lights out! This young one was from Hungary and had been in bed since about 4 in the afternoon. This is the third time this has happened to us - someone had lights out around 8 o´clock making it difficult to get to bed and ready for the next day.

Thursday, March 25, 2010

We are in Lorca (March 23)

We made it to Lorca today, a 16 plus mile walk from Uterga. We met a nice Irish couple, Billy and Christine, and it made the walk much easier. We did the detour to Eurente but got there to early to see the insides. We are now in a flutter on where to go tomorrow. We wanted to stop at Villamayor but the albergues there are closed until easter. Not sure we want to walk all the way to Los Altos.

Day 5 Pamlplona to Uterga (March 23)

When we got just out of Pamplona by the university we must have missed the Camino arrow, so we were standing there looking like we were lost I suppose because an elderly gentleman approached us and in Spanish told us where the path was and walked with us until he had to turn off. He was our Camino angel that day. The trail out of Pamplona was HOT and rocky. Aside from a little rain when we left Roncevalles, we have been very blessed with good weather. But..there was not a bit of shade and really no where to sit and rest. We paused for a drink and all we could hear were the bees buzzing and birds singing.

We stopped in Cizur Minor for lunch and had a most delicious ensalada mixta sandwiched between 2 Spanish tortillas. Next stage of the walk was a long, slow incline. Then a long slow decline. The trail on the decline was covered with small rocks making it very difficult on the feet and knees. The last mile or so into Uterga was flat and wide but the surface was hard. This day was not an easy day. When we arrived a few pilgrims we had met previously were there; the young British woman, the Brazilian father/daughter, and an Asian girl. After showering, washing clothes and stretching we went downstairs to get a drink and write in the journal. Lo and behold in comes Dieter! We all agreed it was a hard walk today. The albergue (Camino del Perdon) was great. Its the first place we stayed in with its own cafe. There are a couple of computers on the 2nd floor in a living room area.

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

Day 4 Zubiri to Pamplona (Marc 22)

Tonight we are in Pamplona in the Albergue Camino de Perdon. Very nice private albergue run by German women and suggested to us by Dieter the first time we met him in Valcarlos.

Our walk from Zubiri to Pamplona was a killer walk. It was very noisy = between highway traffic and factories. some of the footpaths made for very nice walking but we walked into the Albergue along with Becky the British woman, Zach the young Canadian and Ethan the teenager from Vermont. We were greeted with a hot cup of tea and biscuits which really hit the spot. One of the hospitalleros told the five of us to combine all our laundry and she took care of it for 3 euros. We ate at a recommended cafeteria called the Cafeteria Palace, run by a former peregrino. We were treated like kings!! Lots of wine, good three course meal and an after dinner shot of a local liquor. Palma had her first sol y sombra. A delicious drink equal parts anis liquor and brandy. It was quite a generous pouring. Back to the Alberque for 10:00 lights. Had a good night sleep and lights on at 0600.

This morning we went to the post office and got rid of 4 kilos. We then went to the public library and did a bit of posting. Then back to the albergue, got our packs and started walking. At the Altos de el pedron we were stopped by a photographer doing a shoot for a motorcycle magazine he asked if we would pose for a picture. So if any one out there can get a copy of La Moto mid April edition, we may be in it!! The walk up the Perdon and down to Uterga was tough. I thought I may have developed a blister but my feet are clear, as are Palmas. We are using a ton of Vaseline.

Days 1 thru 3 SJPP to Roncevalles to Zubiri (March 19 - 20)

We left for SJPP on train from Bordeaux at 0727, I forgot to validate the ticket and got a lecture from the conductor.  We arrived in Bayonne at 0930 and we had a couple hours to kill so we walked around a bit.  It would have been nice if I had made time for us to visit Biaritz and see if I remembered anything from when my parents used to take me as a child.  As the time approached to catch the bus there were two other pelegrinos waiting, a Korean (I think) and an Italian, Mateo. We had a bit of guessing which bus would be taking us as none were marked.  But finally we noticed a small sign on a little bus that it was going to SJPP.  Apparently, the Korean pilgrim had a different ticket so he had to wait for another bus.

When we got to SJPP we walked up a big hill from the train station to the pilgrim office and checked in.  We were advised the Napoleon route was too dangerous and we should go the Valcarlos route.  We also received scallop shells for our packs. Check in at Le Chamin de E'toile was 4 pm so we sought a place to purchase our pilgrim staffs and a restaurant for lunch.  We found one with a nice outdoor patio and had a nice Basque lunch of sausage, pepper stew and French fries with a jug of wine.  When it was time to check in we walked to the albergue.  It was in a very old building that could handle 14 pilgrims. Apparently it had recently changed ownership.  The new owner was a Parisian fellow named Eric, who was super nice and very enthusiastic about the Camino.  He was not officially open and was in the middle of getting things ready for the upcoming pilgrim season.  We were given a room with three full sized bunk beds, so Palma and I zipped our sleeping bags together and took a lower bunk. We took our showers, washed some clothes and went out for dinner.  While looking for a place to eat we walked into a demonstration against the recent ETA assassination of a French policeman.  

Next morning we got up about 0700 and had breakfast, the day was beautiful, the church bells were ringing and so we started our Camino. The walking was not too difficult. At one point we passed a small dog that charged at us but a smack with the pilgrim staff stopped him.  About 1030 we crossed into Spain.  As we approached Valcarlos we had our steepest incline, it knocked the wind out of us but it was not so bad.  Since the albergue did not open until noon we went to a bar and Palma got a coffee and I got a beer.  When we went back to the albergue no one was there so we went up to the town hall which was also locked up.  We had to go through our stack of notes about the Camino and found a phone number to call.  We finally got help and we got into the albergue.  We were really surprised at how modern and clean it was. They had two rooms with a total of 24 beds, 2 bathrooms with four showers and 4 toilets.  Also had a nice kitchen.  Cost was ten euros and included breakfast which really was access to coffee.  We had checked out the couple of eating establishments and fish did not seem to be an option and since it was a Friday we decided to go to the local market and buy some tuna fish and bread for dinner. As I was walking to the store I ran into an elderly peregrino who was looking for the albergue.  I told him he could follow me, but I was getting food for the day.  This pilgrim was a 75 year old German named Dieter on his pilgrimage.  His kids had chipped in their time to care for his wife and insisted he do the Camino.  So we shared our food and wine with dieter, learned a lot about each other.  Very nice man.  

This morning we got up at 7, had our coffee and left for Roncevalles by 0830.  Today the walk was hell.  Valcarlos to Roncevalles is only 11.9 kms but it was very steep inclines.  It seemed all we did was walk up, up and up. When we got to the top we were hit by gale force winds. We were dead by the time we got to Roncevalles 5 hours later. We had lunch and then checked into the peregino office. We got our beds, a double size bunk which allowed us to hook our sleeping bags together. We took our showers and then went to the pilgrim mass which was very moving. The two priests singing was outstanding as was the pilgrim´s blessing. After mass we went to dinner and ate with some other pergrinos. One was an Anglican priest and his wife, Dieter, and a German cyclist named Tim. We had a nice meal of vegy soup, trout and wine.

Next morning they got us up and 6 am and we were walking to Zubiri by 0715. It was lightly raining so our Altus ponchos worked great. We stopped at the first town (fill in name later) and had a cafe con leche and un bocadillo of ham and cheese. Later as we were walking Palma lost her glasses so we spent about 20 minutes looking for them on the trail. Luckily we found them with the help of St Anthony. We were feeling good and had a good pace. The weather seemed to clear up and the walk was good. A bit later we were feeling really good. We sat down on a bench by the trail that over looked the valley and the major highway and had a drink of water. We then got up and charged up the hill. 1/2 mile we got to a crossroad and no Camino sign. We had gone the wrong way. So we went down the mountain back to where we sat on the bench and saw the right trail marker. This little mistake really was terrible because as we started down the proper trail a herd of Spanards came upon us. It was the dreaded 100 Spaniards walking the Camino using busses to move them around. After they passed us we had about 10 kms to get to Zubiri. This was not a bad walk, but the last few kilometers seemed be downhill in a dry riverbed with rocks and ruts. Hard on the feet and knees. We came down the mountain into Zubiri and decided to stay at the priviate algbergue. We stayed at the private albergue and shortly after we arrived several familiar pilgrims arrived as well. There were about 10 of us who ate dinner together at the bar down the street. Got back to our room around 9 o´clock and all the lights were out! A couple of pilgrims decided to his the sack and left us in the dark. Tomorrow we head to Pamplona which should be about 12 miles - a ¨cake walk¨ according to the young Canadian pilgrim.

Sunday, March 21, 2010

First few days

I am having a bit of trouble sleeping so I thought I would catch up on the blog. We left the US on 15 March. We caught the train from Penn Station to Newark Airport. When we got to the airport we learned our plane was about 1 hour and 15 minutes late in departure. That worried us a bit since it now would get us in about an hour before the train we wanted to take would leave for Bordeaux. I thought going through immegration, getting our bags, going through customs and purchasing our tickets may be a bridge to far. In fact once we got to Paris we sailed through it all until we got to the train station then panic set in. First we tried to purchase our tickets from the kiosk, but our credit cards would not work. Then we went to the ticket counter and found it crowded with people and only two clerks working the lines. But luck was with us and we got our tickets and were on the train with minutes to spare. The train ride was uneventful, except we got our first sticker shock when we bought two coffees and a roll for 6.6 € When we got to Bordeaux we walked to the Ibis hotel but decided not to stay there as it cost 86 € a night. We found another hotel closer to the train station called the Etap hotel, which cost us 64€ a night and included breakfast. The hotel rooms were clean but tiny. After we settled in we walked into the old town about a 20-30 minute walk. We walked up a beautfull river park that we learned was fairly new Apparently a few years ago the city knocked down a lot of old abandoned building to build the park. When we got downtown we went to the tourist office and made reservations for a wine tour the nect day. We then walked back to the hotel and stopped a place near the train station for dinner. We had a wonderful salad but the worst piece of meat I had ever eaten, tough as shoe leather and no taste. Ugh! The nexted day after breakfast we walked back into town went tot he tourist office and got directions to Decat, a sports store on the Rue de Catherine, which is said to be the longest pedestrian shopping street in Europe. After stopping at Decats and purchasing sunglasses we went exploring. We had just finsihed walking around this old church, Saint Andre, when we were stopped by two television reportes asking us our opinion of Bordeaux. Funny we will never see it!! For lunch we purchased a baguette of ham, egg, and cheese for just 4 €. Nice cheap lunch. We then stopped for a beer, since it was of course St Patricks day. Another sticker shock event. A wine glass of bear for 6€.

Sjpp got on train from Bordeaux at 0727, I forgot to validate the ticket and got a lecture from the conductor.  We arrived in Bayonne at 0030 and we had a couple hours to kill so we walked around a bit.  It would have been nice if I had made time for us to visit Biaritz and see if I remembered anything from when my parents used to take me as a child.  As the time approached to catch the bus there two other pelegrinos waiting, a Korean (I think) and an Italian, Mateo. We had a bit of guessing which bus would be taking us as none were marked.  But finally we noticed a small sign on a little bus that it was going to sjpp.  Apparently the Korean pilgrim had different ticket so he had to wait for another bus. When we got to sjpp we walked up a big hill from the train station to the pilgrim office and checked in.  We were advised the Nspoleon route was to dangerous and we should go the valcarlos route.  We also received scallop shells for our packs Check in at Le Chamin de e'toile was 4 pm so we sought a place to purchase our pilgrim staffs and a restaurant for lunch.  We found one with a nice outdoor patio and had a nice Basque lunch of sausage, pepper stew and French fries with a craft of wine.  When it was time to check in we walked to the albergue.  It was in a very old building that could handle 14 pilgrims. Apparently it had been recently changed ownership.  The new owner was a Parisian fellow named Eric, who was super nice and very enthusidtic about the camino .  He was not officially own and was in the middle of getting things Ready fpr the upcoming pilgim season.  We were given a room with three full sized bunk beds, so Palma and zipped our sleeping bags together and took a lower bunk thinking this may the last time we sleep together for bit. We topk our showers, washed some clothes and went out for diiner.  While looking for a place to eat we walked into a donstration against the recent ETA assasination of a french policeman.  Next morning we got up about seven had breakfast and started our camino. The day was beautiful and the walking was not too hard. At one point we passed a small dog that charged at us but a smack with the pilgrim staff stopped him.  About 1030 we crossed into Spain.  As we approached Valcarlos we had our steepest incline, it knocked the wind out of us bur it was not so bad.  Since the albergue did not open until noon we went to a bar and Palma got a coffee and I got a beer.  When we went back to the albergue no one was there so we went up to the town hall which was also locked up.  We had to go through our stack of notes about the camino and found a phone number to call.  We got help and got I to tjealbergue.  We were really surprised at how modern and clean it was. Theyjad two rooms with 24 beds,2 bathrooms with for showers and 4 toilets.  Also had a nicekitchen.  Cost was ten euros and included breakfast which reallywas access to coffee.  We had checked out the couple eating establishments and fish did not seem to be an option and since it was a Friday we decided to go to the local market and buy some tuna fish and bread for dinner. As I was walking to the store I ran into an elderly pelegrinos who was looking for the albergue.  I told him he could follow me, nut I was getting food for the day.  This pilgrim was a 75 year old German named Dieter on his pilgrimage.  His kids had chipped in to watch over his wife and insisted he do the camino.  So we shared our food and wine with dieter, learned a lot about easchother.  Very nice man.  This morning we got up at 7 had our coffee and left for Roncevalles by 0830.  Today the walk was hell.  Valcarlos to roncevalles is only 11.9 kms but it was 90 up steep inclines.  We were dead bythe time we got here 5 hours later.

Sjpp got on train from Bordeaux at 0727, I forgot to validate the ticket and got a lecture from the conductor.  We arrived in Bayonne at 0030 and we had a couple hours to kill so we walked around a bit.  It would have been nice if I had made time for us to visit Biaritz and see if I remembered anything from when my parents used to take me as a child.  As the time approached to catch the bus there two other pelegrinos waiting, a Korean (I think) and an Italian, Mateo. We had a bit of guessing which bus would be taking us as none were marked.  But finally we noticed a small sign on a little bus that it was going to sjpp.  Apparently the Korean pilgrim had different ticket so he had to wait for another bus. When we got to sjpp we walked up a big hill from the train station to the pilgrim office and checked in.  We were advised the Nspoleon route was to dangerous and we should go the valcarlos route.  We also received scallop shells for our packs Check in at Le Chamin de e'toile was 4 pm so we sought a place to purchase our pilgrim staffs and a restaurant for lunch.  We found one with a nice outdoor patio and had a nice Basque lunch of sausage, pepper stew and French fries with a craft of wine.  When it was time to check in we walked to the albergue.  It was in a very old building that could handle 14 pilgrims. Apparently it had been recently changed ownership.  The new owner was a Parisian fellow named Eric, who was super nice and very enthusidtic about the camino .  He was not officially own and was in the middle of getting things Ready fpr the upcoming pilgim season.  We were given a room with three full sized bunk beds, so Palma and zipped our sleeping bags together and took a lower bunk thinking this may the last time we sleep together for bit. We topk our showers, washed some clothes and went out for diiner.  While looking for a place to eat we walked into a donstration against the recent ETA assasination of a french policeman.  Next morning we got up about seven had breakfast and started our camino. The day was beautiful and the walking was not too hard. At one point we passed a small dog that charged at us but a smack with the pilgrim staff stopped him.  About 1030 we crossed into Spain.  As we approached Valcarlos we had our steepest incline, it knocked the wind out of us bur it was not so bad.  Since the albergue did not open until noon we went to a bar and Palma got a coffee and I got a beer.  When we went back to the albergue no one was there so we went up to the town hall which was also locked up.  We had to go through our stack of notes about the camino and found a phone number to call.  We got help and got I to tjealbergue.  We were really surprised at how modern and clean it was. Theyjad two rooms with 24 beds,2 bathrooms with for showers and 4 toilets.  Also had a nicekitchen.  Cost was ten euros and included breakfast which reallywas access to coffee.  We had checked out the couple eating establishments and fish did not seem to be an option and since it was a Friday we decided to go to the local market and buy some tuna fish and bread for dinner. As I was walking to the store I ran into an elderly pelegrinos who was looking for the albergue.  I told him he could follow me, nut I was getting food for the day.  This pilgrim was a 75 year old German named Dieter on his pilgrimage.  His kids had chipped in to watch over his wife and insisted he do the camino.  So we shared our food and wine with dieter, learned a lot about easchother.  Very nice man.  This morning we got up at 7 had our coffee and left for Roncevalles by 0830.  Today the walk was hell.  Valcarlos to roncevalles is only 11.9 kms but it was 90 up steep inclines.  We were dead bythe time we got here 5 hours later.